My grandfather passed away.
Months ago, actually.
And I didn’t tell many people about it, for various reasons. We weren’t close. He wasn’t the epitome of a good man, or a good husband, or a good father to my mom (in fact, it could be said that he was the opposite).
As sad as it is, I didn’t mourn him very much. I was more heartbroken that his passing didn’t affect me, that no one mourned him, than I was about actually losing him. I was sad that a life had ended, but I didn’t feel the same sorrow or loss I felt when my dad’s mother passed away.
Or when Robin Williams passed away.
It sounds so ridiculous, to be so shaken by the death of someone I never knew, but that’s not how it felt. It felt like I did know him. Everything he shared with the world made it a better place to be.
The worst part wasn’t learning he’d passed. It was learning why. And I don’t mean the suicide or the depression or the haunting details of his final moments.
It’s the Parkinson’s diagnosis.
I lost my grandmother to Parkinson’s. I watched her die a slow, painful death that lasted over a decade. Being exposed to something like that changes you. It changed me. It changed my father.
He and I have an understanding, and we’ve discussed it frankly and with maybe too much alacrity: if he starts to go down the same path as his mother, he is going to “remove himself from the equation.”
In a hypothetical future, my father could share the same fate as Robin Williams.
Someone on Twitter shared the idea that our generation saw Robin Williams as an avatar for our own fathers, and it’s true. As a kid, I loved how hairy he was because it reminded me of my own dad. I loved what I saw in him, the big wonderful man with a larger-than-life sense of humor.
We lost a man who taught us so much: how to laugh and how to find our voices and to learn the value of kindness, a man who shared his gift and genius with us and asked nothing in return.
So no, I won’t call him selfish. I don’t think it was a cowardly thing to do, and shame on anybody passing judgment on a desperate man in a desperate hour. Depression lies and Parkinson’s kills, and that is a combination that will break the strongest and most joyful of spirits.
I’ve always been grateful for the honesty my father and I share—I’m even more grateful to know what to expect should he choose to seek peace in his own way in the future. I only wish the Williams family had been given that same understanding—it is my deepest hope that they let go of any guilt or anger and remember him as they knew him: “one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls.”
Until then, I will remind myself how lucky I am and to be grateful for every moment I have with the people I love.